Have you noticed a mysterious looking brown item lined up in the pickle section? It looks really strange, and for those of you who have never tried it, its appearance hardly invites you to reach for it. This is a form of pickle called “Narazuke.”

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What is Narazuke?

Narazuke refers to vegetables of the gourd family that are pickled in sake lees. It is said to have originated in the Kansai region of Japan. At one time, it was apparently a very expensive food that only those in the upper class could enjoy. Later, in the Edo period (1603-1868), it came to be widely consumed by the general public.

It is said that the first fast-food restaurant in Japan was the “Ochazukeya,” serving narazuke = restaurant serving cooked rice soaked in hot tea with narazuke. Observing the crowds visiting the Kannon-sama (Buddhist deity of mercy) in Asakusa, Tokyo, a man in the Edo period opened a food stand that became a big hit. His menu included an
ochazuke served with narazuke. It became hugely popular to consume something that could be eaten quickly while enjoying the activities and shopping around the Kannon. For entrepreneurs of all ages, it is crucial to come up with an innovative idea like this.

Narazuke is usually made by soaking vegetables in sake lees for a long time and replacing the lees over and over until the vegetables mature. During soaking, the saltiness transfers to the sake lees, and the umami and alcohol in the narazuke permeate the vegetables.

Preparing narazuke requires an enormous amount of time and care. Enzyme action via fermentation generates nutrients that tum narazuke into a highly nutritious food. Narazuke made with natural ingredients alone contains enzymes such as lactic acid bacteria and live yeast, and fermented foods with live bacteria are exceptionally tasty. The lactic-acid bacteria in narazuke has been shown to reduce stomach acid in the intestines. The natural aminoacids in narazuke are sources of umami that cannot be produced chemically. As a food rich in plant lactobacillus and dietary fiber, narazuke is the perfect addition to your daily diet.

How to Cook Narazuke

Narazuke Mixed Rice Reicpe

Narazuke Mixed Rice

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 1 oz. narazuke
  • 1 piece salted salmon
  • Ground white sesame (to taste)
  • Shredded nori (to taste)

Cooking Directions

  1. Bake the salmon, and remove the skin and the bones.
  2. Slice the Narazuke and mix into the rice.
  3. Mix the salmon and sesame into the rice and top with nori.

Gochiso Magazine, Nijiya Market

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